What We Like
- Freedom to mix live, in-studio, or by monitor.
- Pedal input option.
- Can expand with another Audio Express.
What We Don’t Like
- Confusing and inconvenient design.
In the very competitive market of audio interfaces, the MOTU Audio Express makes an attempt to impress indie engineers with its reliable high-quality sound. We’ll take a look at what you’d get and if it’s worth what you’d pay.
The MOTU Audio Express is a peculiar-looking audio interface. Most interfaces have everything — the inputs, input gain knobs, headphone jacks, etc. — on one side of the device for convenient access. But MOTU decided to build the Audio Express with the inputs on one side and the knobs and headphone jack on the other. Obviously, this can take some getting used to, and may frustrate some users.
Continuing with this odd design, the lights that show you the gain levels and frequency may take a little more brain power to understand than for most other interfaces in its league.
But once you figure out the signal panel and get used to the odd setup of the device, it can serve you well. Because the most important thing is not how the Audio Express looks — an all-black design that makes it look like a large external hard drive — but what it can do.
This Firewire/USB interface works well as a mixer — for live shows, in-studio, or as a monitor mixer. The technical aspect goes like this: The Audio Express mixes the signals from the inputs down to an output pair (i.e. the main outputs) while still being able to control the individual input volumes. This is good for, say, mixing live music through a PA system — you could set your overall mix but then mix the vocals going to the stage monitors differently.
One feature that makes this device unique is the pedal input, which allows you connect pretty much any footswitch. This allows you to punch in when recording and keep your hand free for performing.
Another pretty cool option is the ability to expand if needed. Simply add another Audio Express through Firewire or USB. And it includes driver-level support so the signals going in and out of both devices stay in sync during recording and playback.
A key to whether an interface is successful in this market is if it’s easy to use. Trying to find a balance between simple design and offering as many features as possible is like using a seesaw.
Even though the Audio Express offers a good number of features compared to other interfaces in its class, the setup and design of the actual device is confusing and very inconvenient.
But if you can get past the odd setup of the inputs and knobs, this is a reliable interface. The features it has and the quality it delivers matches what it costs.
The MOTU Audio Express delivers the audio goods, whether you’re at a live event, working in the studio, or mixing. With with seven input options, including a pedal input, you’ll be the most prepared home-recording artist around.